We go to Palisades-Kepler State Park in east central Iowa several times a year. Thanks for joining us this time. We like to hike along the trail more than 100 ft above the Cedar River. Parts of the trail are along the face of these rocks.
Each season brings out something different such as wild flowers in summer or colored leaves in autumn. This time it was an abundance of ferns. We’ve had a wet and cool spring.
The weather changes a lot in Iowa. It is one of the features of our state we like. Now and then, we enjoy some of the most splendid and beautiful days. It was like that recently with absolutely clear skies, very light breeze, and 72˚F. We changed clothes and drove a few miles to a favorite place, FW Kent County Park. We hiked around the central lake and then around a smaller pond in the northeast corner. Total distance was about 2 miles. Not far. But, it was a beautiful day. Not much needs to be said. The pictures speak for themselves. Enjoy!
Queen of the Wildflowers. Tall patches like these are all over the park. The ample rains of summer have made them strong.
Sawtooth Sunflowers according to the Conservation Manager at the the park.
King of the Roof Truss. Many examples of old truss-style bridges are displayed on the path around the lake.
The perfect mirror.
The wild plums are ripe. The fruit pulp is sweet, but the skins are bitter.
July 8, 2014 was our 34th anniversary of the day we met. To celebrate the occasion, we went to Wildcat Den State Park near Muscatine, IA. It had been many years since our last visit with our young son. He is all grown up now learning to fly for the Air Force.
We drove the hour from home and entered the park from the north in this map view from Google. We parked the car at P and set out with our hiking poles. Light blue arrows show our route started out counter-clockwise around the big loop. Right off the bat we encountered some trouble. There was a giant tree across the path, downed by the heavy rain and softened soil from the week before. Fortunately it wasn’t a harbinger of things to come.
Past the tree, the trail (marked with a yellow and red line) began with an uphill slope. It crossed the main road through the park and continued upward, finally flattening as we headed west.
We have become more involved in outdoor recreational activities, especially hiking. We have a lot of trails and paths in our neighborhoods interconnecting them. Bikers and hikers use them a lot. Our local parks offer many more challenging trails for off-road bike enthusiasts. We make a point of looking up the trail systems in our state parks when we go somewhere. Nothing beats having input from people who have actually been there and can offer insight to the quality of activity the trails offer.
As we travel farther from home, the best and recommended places to play are less familiar. We found an app that can tell us what local things are available. It is called lo•ca•lei•kki. Their web site, here, says it means play local. In their words…
We want to help people be active no matter where they are. localeikki is a database of recreation locations that are publicly accessible and locally recommended. Input an address & your activity choice and localeikki will find local running/cycling locations others have shared. Not only will you know where to go, you’ll also know what it looks like & what amenities are available (e.g., bathrooms, drinking water, parking). Want to find a regularly scheduled ride or run? We have that information too! You can find us on the web and as an app for your mobile devices.
It is simple to use. Open the app. It finds your location. Click on the kind of activity you want. It shows them, what they offer, and how far they are from you.
The content of their database of places is crowdsourced. You can add your own places to the database with their easy form. If you are an outdoors person, take a look at this app. It is a good tool for your next activities. Here are two screen shots.
In the interest of full disclosure, a co-founder of this app is married to our niece.
After our visit in West Virginia with a daughter and her family, we headed west toward home. At the end of day one of our drive, we stayed overnight in Logan, OH. It is near Hocking Hills State Park. The next morning we planned to hike a couple of trails in that park before continuing our drive toward Iowa.
Overnight a light snow had fallen. The car needed to be brushed off. We drove out of Logan on a snow-covered county road about 10 miles southwest. At the park headquarters, we parked next to the only other car in the lot. The driver said he had been here many times. He was getting his camera gear ready. We asked his advice on the trail we were going to take to Old Man’s Cave before we departed in opposite directions.
Signs were posted about the dangers of ice and falls in the park. This was going to be a little more challenging than we originally thought.
Our plan was to visit the headquarters, view a map, and use the restrooms. The building was closed. A map was posted on the door. Portable toilets were available nearby. The snow was falling steadily, but still light. We went down the stairs toward the deep gorge visible at the bottom. Part way down we stopped to take in the view and talk about safely walking on snow-covered icy trails and stone steps.
The trail went farther into the gorge. A sign gave us the choice of going upstream or down. We headed downstream toward Old Man’s Cave. The cave seemed to be lit, giving an other-worldly glow. The source was the opening above, the grey winter light brightening even under the rock ledge.
The summer of 1980 is special to us. We met and started our lives together. Melanie was an undergrad and Jim was in grad school at Eastern Illinois University. A mutual friend, Dan, introduced us over lunch in the cafeteria of the dorm complex.
It was a hot summer in several ways. One weekend, we rented some camping equipment and headed for Shades State Park in Indiana about an hour away. We set up camp, hiked some trails, and rented a canoe to float Sugar Creek through the park.
Was this before or after we drove to town, just to buy chocolate??
It’s still true: Melanie poses with rocks, and Jim poses with trees.
Many years have gone by since our visit to that special place. This year, we planned a road trip to West Virginia to meet our daughter and her family, who live in the Washington DC. The highway eastward took us only a few miles from Shades. We decided it was time to visit that park again and hike some trails, this time in the winter.
We had such a wonderful day. We left here a little after 6 am, after seeing the thinnest crescent moon and Jupiter in the very clear sky. It was in the low 50s, pretty cool but seasonal for here. Three towns north we stopped for breakfast and coffee, which were both decent. And then on to the park. Iowa is very beautiful. Many people believe it is flat and boring, but it is not flat. And you’d only be bored if you find the rolling hills, century farmsteads, and tree-lined creek beds uninspiring. Northeast Iowa rolls more, and this time of year literally looks like a Grant Wood painting. Indeed he was from here so knew the land well.
Stone City – Grant Wood
After breakfast, we drove northeast another hour or so. At Anamosa, we turned east onto hwy. 64, also marked as Grant Wood Scenic Byway. It followed the high ground between two rivers and provided some nice vistas. We drove through Wyoming, Monmouth, and Baldwin. Just after Pence Cemetery, we turned north onto Bear Creek Road. This last part was a gravel-covered “Level B, Enter at your own Risk” road. It wasn’t bad, but would be difficult if muddy.